Abstract

The Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine confuses respect for a person's right to self-determination with concern about protecting human beings generally. In a legal document, this mixture of deontological with utilitarian considerations undermines what it should preserve: respect for human dignity as the foundation of modern rights-based democracies. Falling prey to the ambiguity of freedom, the Convention blurs the dividing line between morality and the law. The document should be remedied through distinguishing fundamental rights from social ‘rights’, persons as entitled to the right to self-determination from born humans as entitled to the right to life and from members of the human species as entitled to the morally responsible care of voting majorities. For the cultivating of the required responsibility, the conditions for an adequate public debate should be secured.

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